These are students who have not got the best opportunity. Many are from backgrounds where parents do not even understand the need for educating a girl child. For them this is a stop gap arrangement and is valued in the marriage market. Yet each year we get a few who make it big. Our Alumni list can vouch for this. The founders of our college were ambitious people and it was their effort that still shows in every nook and corner of the place. To them, the peon and the professor were equally important for the well being of the institute and it is students like these that sustain and motivate us. There are many more that deserve a mention and we are in for a surprise from the most unexpected quarters. My post would have no end if I went on and on but I must stop with the mention of two more students. Manisha Mishra and Madhumita.
Manisha was a hard worker but a really poor student. I could make out that she tried her best but she failed her part I exams. She would come to me from time to time to clarify her doubts. She was finding it difficult to cope. I gently suggested that she take up a lighter course. Perhaps a non practical subject. Her reply made me think of the plight of the girl child in our society.
“ Ma’am,” she said “ this is the only time I get to spend outside my home. I cannot receive phone calls or meet anyone other than a five year old boy whom I teach just to keep myself from turning mad. My dad drops me at the college gate and picks me up from there. He truly believes that one should come to college only for practicals and theory ought to be studied on one’s own. He checks my time table each day and brings me over only on the days that I have practicals. If I took up a non practical subject I’d be held captive in my own house.”
Here was a fiercely protective father who wants the best for his daughter but on his own terms and conditions. The girl was underweight and pale as well as a nervous wreck. I wanted to talk to her parents but the girl forbade me to do so. He knew me by name from what the girl had told him but if I spoke up for her he’d perhaps discontinue her studies and accuse me of being a bad influence on her. Her mother truly believed that this was the best way to protect a girl child from this big bad world.
Madumita’s father worked for the Indian Cable Company. The company has been closed down since 1994 or so. Employees retain their quarters but nothing else. The company is unable to pay their settlement dues. To support her family Madhumita works in a pre-primary school and is paid a princely sum of a thousand rupees. She leaves hom at 6.00 in the morning works in her school from 7.00AM to 11.30 AM and rushes to college to attend classes. She misses the first two periods almost every day. But when she enters the class room she has a pleasant smile for all of us,. One cannot ever see a trace of frustration or annoyance in her face. After class she stays back to note down what she missed and to clear any doubts that she may have. She hasn’t passed out yet but I have no doubt that her future is bound to be bright.
“ Why don’t you get yourself a two wheeler?” I asked.
“ A two wheeler has to be fed with petrol” she replied. “ We already have four mouths to feed.”
And she laughed the laughter of a carefree youth just like others of her age.
I think that I’ve learnt much more from these girls than what I’ve taught them. It is this rich treasure of knowledge that no one can ever take away.